verb dis·tend \di-ˈstend\

Definition of distend

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  extend the main outlines of the land yet lay clearly distended before them — Norman Douglas

  3. 2 :  to enlarge from internal pressure :  swell a distended abdomen

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to become expanded causing the stomach to distend

distend was our Word of the Day on 03/29/2009. Hear the podcast!

Examples of distend in a sentence

  1. an abdomen distended by disease

Did You Know?

The history of the word distend stretches back to the Latin verb tendere - a root whose kin have really expanded our language. To find evidence of this expansion, look to words that include "tend" or "tent"; many have "tendere," which means "to stretch, extend, or spread," in their family tree. Perhaps the simplest example is "tent," which names a shelter made from a piece of material stretched over a frame. You'll also find the influence of "tendere" in "extend," "tendon," "contend," "portend," and "tendency."

Origin and Etymology of distend

Middle English, from Latin distendere, from dis- + tendere to stretch — more at thin

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of distend

expand, amplify, swell, distend, inflate, dilate mean to increase in size or volume. expand may apply regardless of the manner of increase (as growth, unfolding, addition of parts) a business that expands every year. amplify implies the extension or enlargement of something inadequate amplify the statement with details. swell implies gradual expansion beyond a thing's original or normal limits the bureaucracy swelled to unmanageable proportions. distend implies outward extension caused by pressure from within a distended abdomen. inflate implies expanding by introduction of air or something insubstantial and suggests a vulnerability to sudden collapse an inflated ego. dilate applies especially to expansion of circumference dilated pupils.

DISTEND Defined for English Language Learners


verb dis·tend \di-ˈstend\

Definition of distend for English Language Learners

  • medical + formal : to become larger and rounder because of pressure from inside

DISTEND Defined for Kids


verb dis·tend \di-ˈstend\

Definition of distend for Students




  1. :  expand 2, swell Illness can cause the stomach to distend.

Word Root of distend

The Latin word tendere, meaning to “stretch” or “to spread,” and its form tentus give us the roots tend, tent, and tens. Words from the Latin tendere have something to do with stretching or spreading. A tent is a temporary shelter made from stretched out fabric. To distend is to stretch outward and swell in all directions. To extend is to stretch out. A tendon is a cord that connects a muscle to another muscle or to a bone and that stretches allowing a joint to bend. Something tense is stretched tight.

Medical Dictionary


verb dis·tend \dis-ˈtend\

Medical Definition of distend

  1. :  to enlarge or stretch out (as from internal pressure) distended veins

  2. intransitive verb

  3. :  to become expanded

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up distend? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a brief usually trivial fact

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